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Local Spotlight: Creosote in Houston's Fifth Ward neighborhood

A person walks through a neighborhood in the Fifth Ward after Tropical Storm Nicholas moved through the area in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by )
A person walks through a neighborhood in the Fifth Ward after Tropical Storm Nicholas moved through the area in Houston, Texas. (Photo by )

As far as discrimination in the modern U.S. goes, environmental racism is one of the more insidious varieties. It’s built into the (sometimes literal) foundations of our country.

Residents in a historically-Black neighborhood in Houston, called Fifth Ward, are grappling with how to move forward after discovering that harmful chemicals from a nearby rail yard, owned by Union Pacific, had permeated their air, water, and bodies for years.

From Siri Chilukuri at Grist:

How does a community deal with this kind of situation? How do the powers that be make it right? We talk to Houstonians to find out.

A statement from Union Pacific Railroad:

“Union Pacific is actively working in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the most comprehensive soil and vapor testing to date in the Fifth Ward community. We are working to finalize a plan with the EPA to allow soil sampling to begin, and we expect to begin sampling properties with the EPA’s approval and oversight. The data obtained from these tests is necessary to determine next steps. Since inheriting the site in a 1997 merger with Southern Pacific, we have completed extensive remediation and cleanup. While the latest round of testing is underway, our collaboration with the Fifth Ward community, the City of Houston, Harris County, and the Bayou City Initiative remains active and steadfast, and we will maintain transparency and open communication throughout the process.”

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Lauren Hamilton